Hello there! My name is Smidge and this is the first post I’m writing here on CreatorConsortium.com.
It’s Sunday afternoon, it’s the end of the week and the end of the first week of both October and Inktober. If you aren’t aware Inktober is a month long artistic challenge, created by Jake Parker. Basically, it’s a challenge to draw every day of October and, as the name suggests, use ink.
For this year, my third, I have attempted to do both traditional and digital. My reasoning is that I wish to improve, and what better way than with this community challenge.
Each year there’s an official prompt list, which is a list of words to give you a starting point and I think that it is fun to see what other people come up with for the same word. I haven’t followed it before nor any of the other prompt lists from other artists, but this year that has changed! I’m following two lists, the official one for traditional and one from an Instagram user called snowwhitekt for digital.
So far it has been both fun and frustrating! My art skills are fairly limited, having only been drawing for about four years now, and it’s showing when I come to draw things other that cute little bears.
For the digital prompt list I wanted to do lots of witches in fun and complicated places, but my skills are not up to that just yet. But I’m glad that it’s come to that; needing to push myself to get better and to do the art that is in my head!
I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far this month and am excited for the rest of the month.
Here are a few from my week, for all of the others, check me out on Instagram: smidgedraws
First up, my favourite of the traditional set is my character LB gazing upon a rather nice looking cake. I love this one because it has some detail and because I think LB is very cute (I could be biased though).
Next is something of an experiment, I tried doing an isometric room using Procreate’s drawing grid. It was really satisfying to fill the room, but I ran out of ideas and time before filling it completely. It’s something that I would like to build on in the future.
And last but not least is the first picture I put up for Inktober. It’s another of my favourites and it’s because of the details. I often have little patience and skip over details that I know would help the picture, however, as I progress through this challenge I’m learning to take my time, which is great!
Are you taking part in Inktober? If so comment and let us know where to find you so we can cheer you on!
I’ll be back soon for a round up of the second week! I hope to see you then!
Tools used for Inktober-
Sakura Pigma Micron pens, sketchbook is a random one from supermarket: ASDA.
ipad pro 12.9 inch with apple pencil and Procreate app
You sit there, with your word document open, staring at you, judging you, as the ideas coil and constrict your creativity like a vice. If only you could just begin. If only you could just form those first few sentences then the rest would flow and your one hundred and twenty thousand word magnum opus would be finished in months and the publishers would be beating your door down.
Or maybe you’ve started a thousand stories but they’ve all fizzled out after a thousand words and your frustration, nay exhaustion, knows no bounds.
Well I’m here to make the case for worldbuilding as a way to not just propel your writing to greater things, but to add a sense of achievement to what you do. Remember, as long as you are putting pen to paper, or bit to chip, you’re writing.
There are many people who say you shouldn’t get stuck into the cycle of worldbuilding. Just as writers will tell you that you shouldn’t take so many notes or continuously do research as a form of procrastination, and it’s true that you will get nowhere if you don’t put real work into the craft of writing. It is also true, however, that the only way to become a success in writing (whatever that means) is to be true to your own uniqueness and allow others to see it; to buy into what sets you apart. I believe that worldbuilding is a cathartic and interesting way to find this in yourself.
After that long and rambling justification, we finally get to the salient point: what exactly is worldbuilding? I for one see it as the process of contextualising the infinite, grounding the ineffable and all in all building scaffolding around the characters, places and worlds that you will write about.
Where to start? Well, like everything else, it depends. You need to know your story first, even if it’s only in the planning stages. Know all the little quirks and concepts you want before launching in. As an example, let’s use the world I’ve been working on recently – Furlands (working title). The concept is that this is an entirely mundane middle-ages setting with an European flavour, with all that it entails: castles, swords, chivalry and a sense of gritty adventure.
What sets it apart is that all the characters are rodents, or creatures of that ilk, think Redwall meets game of thrones. It sounds reductive but the whole world stemmed From this idea and honestly half the work is done for you; the rest is maps, names and intertwining little events that give that context and flavour to the background of your stories, be they a swashbuckling adventure on airships or a tale of tomb-robbing alien god-kin.
I’ll no doubt get more into worldbuilding in a future article, but I believe it’s a good place to start as we begin the run up to NaNoWriMo.
Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and other role-playing games (RPGs) have been the interests of an underground movement for decades. Our little sub-culture managed to explode onto the main stage in recent times, collecting the meek, the nerd, the geek and the mild together for stories of heroism and adventure. The cool kids joined in not long after and now the hobby is enjoyed the world over.
But like most interests, anxiety can hinder participation in these legendary gaming sessions, causing some sufferers to opt out before they’ve begun, or tremble at the thought of talking in front of a group of people.
Often the worries start with talking in the limelight, or anxious at role-playing with accents and voices not of our own, or they can lead to fears of making mistakes and upsetting people and finally being judged for ‘doing it wrong’ or not being the life of the party.
But this shouldn’t be the case, and for many anxiety sufferers the game has not only opened up whole new worlds of adventure but also confidence and strength they never realized they had.
So how do they do it?
We’re going to tell you. We’ve outlined some of the broader issues anxiety creates for some of us, so now we’re going to tackle two parts; anxiety as a player and anxiety as the games master (GM) or Dungeon master (DM).Some of these ideas will be applicable to both, so read on and see if we can help. Finally, I’ll cover some ideas which you can try to help gaming buddies through their anxiety. Let’s see how we get on…
Some of these ideas will be applicable to both, so read on and see if we can help. Finally, I’ll cover some ideas which you can try to help gaming buddies through their anxiety. Let’s see how we get on…
It’s important to note that games like D&D are not spectator games. We’re all involved and invested in the game and every session we want to be fun. The first take home message is that you’re not acting in front of a crowd – everyone is responsible for enjoying the game and no one should be made to feel otherwise. With this in mind, we suggest the following:
The first take home message is that you’re not acting in front of a crowd – everyone is responsible for enjoying the game and no one should be made to feel otherwise. With this in mind, we suggest the following:
Play with friends (if you can) and keep your first few sessions small. You may need to ask around or set time aside for these smaller games until your confidence levels up.It’s always best to let people know that you struggle with anxiety or just aspects of the game. In knowing, everyone can grow as a group.
It’s always best to let people know that you struggle with anxiety or just aspects of the game. In knowing, everyone can grow as a group.
See if you can get one on one games with an experienced DM – they don’t have to be long but they may give you a better idea of where to start and offer some much-needed practice.
Before the game, ask your DM for support in the form of cues and prompts – it can be terrifying to feel like you’re on the spot so make the DM aware of how you feel and see if you guys can try out some polite suggestions when it’s your turn to act.
Collaborate. When you’re creating a character see if your DM can suggest another player to collaborate with. Collaborating can mean you create characters with a shared background who would help each other in situations during the game. The help will naturally fall into the real world too, giving you a bit of space and support when you need it most.A trusted friend or a more experienced and / or socially aware player would be best.
A trusted friend or a more experienced and / or socially aware player would be best.
Try to play a character larger than life or with comedic value – his sounds a little absurd but when you feel you’re not playing yourself you can forget who you are and really get stuck in. Try it out and see if you can get some support from the gaming group.
Create very detailed characters with a solid background and ethos – when you know exactly who your character is it’s easier to role-play them from outside. You’ll find that you quickly don’t need to think about their responses and it will come naturally with fewer pauses.
DM / GM Anxiety
Running a game can be hard even without the social or internal pressures associated with anxiety, and it may seem like insurmountable odds are stacked against you but we’ve got some ideas which may chip away at that growing wall.
Declare your first game as a trial and try to be open about why you’re doing it this way. Role-play gamers are generally an understanding bunch and the more experienced they are the better.
As noted previously for players, run a session with a single player and see if you can get the tone and pacing right. One on one games are a great way of getting over your fears and giving you a better idea of how the game goes, you’ll also realise how your story sounds to someone else.
Get a non-player to listen to your story idea for the game you have in mind and see if they can help you with feedback. Often non-players are able to see the bigger picture without getting bogged down in monster stats or game mechanics which may help you formulate an organic game. Get comfortable with your idea and rehears bits of it in your head.
Give yourself extra time to prepare and bring that extra preparedness with you – notes on cards, bookmarks and general organisational skills will help even the best DM so there’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same. If you can flip from one encounter to the other when you’re reading through your notes then you’ll be able to keep the pace going and avoid your mind going blank.
It’s OK to be imperfect as a DM and this is important to remember because everyone sat around your gaming table are responsible, not just you. You’re definitely not alone, so embrace your vulnerability and go with it.
Helping Others with Anxiety
Getting a friend to join your game can be really difficult. Since anxiety can be a whole combination of unique parts you can’t really give a blanket answer on how to do this. We think that these ideas may give you some help, especially if the anxiety comes with a dose of general social anxiety…
Pick the right RPG. If your friend is familiar with content from certain settings or universes then go with those games. While you’re at it, see if they may enjoy a mechanically heavy game as an introduction – we’ve found that these sorts of games take the pressure of the role-playing off and can help that player get a taste for the social aspect.
Don’t force your friend into anything – Try a one on one game, see if they like the idea and increase that little group with an extra trusted friend, or get them to invite someone they can spend time with.
Be open with your friend and ask them if its OK to inform the rest of the gaming group that anxiety is an issue. Games like D&D have always been about enjoying a social event, it’s been inclusive from day one of its 40-year adventure.
Don’t be a dick. Be excellent to one another, as Bill & Ted idealised. If you think one player is being heavy handed or taking advantage, call them out indirectly. As the DM, talk to your friend over the din clearly and ask them if they want to tag along if they may have a better idea. Giving your friend the space to think about it without piling on pressure will help them settle in and be more confident.
It’s worth sitting them and DM together so there’s help at hand and they can work together, or if you have a socially aware and experienced player who doesn’t mind taking the backseat to promote another player with their character, get them talking.
So that’s it for now.
If you have thought or comments, please get in touch. If you think this has been helpful, we’d love to hear your story large or small. And if you think we’re wrong about anything, well we’d like to hear about that too – we want to get things right just as much as everyone else.
Be excellent to one another, always.
J.D Ferris, CC
Photo images made by the Creator Consortium, artwork taken from Wizards of the Coast, here
Role-playing games (RPGs) had a bit of a bad rep for a few decades – if you look at popular culture we see a nerd-collective; a mishmash of the unwanted, unwashed and friendless few sat around a dingy table in a poorly lit area rolling dice and getting ‘nerd-rage’ when things don’t go their way. It’s a pretty lame appearance and while stereotypes do exist, the reality is very different from the social perception.
Since the reawakening of games such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), the popularity of computer / console games and hype from books, film and other media, fantasy and its sibling science fiction, have become mainstream profiles. It’s cool to be a nerd (but better to be a real nerd).
So, what are games like Dungeons & Dragons about?
They’re a social-narrative story-telling kind of game. You create characters based on calculated abilities (actually very simple to generate) and attribute a race (Elf, Dwarf, Human, Gnome etc), class (like a life-long profession such as Rogue, Warrior, Sorcerer etc) and a personality to fit with all the above.
You may be lucky and roll a high Strength attribute, meaning you could choose a profession which is martial orientated, such as a fighter or barbarian. Or you may roll a high intelligence attribute, which could lead to the arcane path of the wizard, or a very cunning thief – there are quite a few varieties and endless customization to create a character you enjoy role-playing as.
And inevitably, you’ll get attached to them as their stories unfold.
But how does it run, how does the game progress and how do you keep track?
The same way you would reading a novel, only in this instance the author is often referred to as the games master (GM) or dungeons master (DM) if you’re specifically playing Dungeons & Dragons.
The GM will create a story within the guidelines of a theme, usually fantasy (think sword & sorcery) or science fiction (think Star Wars). The GM acts as the story teller (although story-shower is more appropriate) and referee, describing the scenes, acting as the non-player characters (NPCs) who are both the good guys and bad guys you may encounter on the adventure.
The format of the game is usually referred to as an adventure, although different RPGs may label these as mysteries, quests or simply as stories. An adventure can last a couple of hours, or they can be linked together with an overarching story which are sometimes referred to as campaigns. A campaign can last for weeks, months, years or even decades (can confirm).
Why are they good for you then?
This can be straight forward and quite complex at the same time. If you’re thinking of running a game with the family the benefits are obvious – your child will learn literacy skills and likely have a desire to read more about how the adventures can work. They’ll also begin to grasp the simple math behind the core mechanic of the game – which will lead them to ponder the chances or probability of dice rolls. They’ll want to know what their chances of surviving the dragons terrible fire breath are!
The slightly more complex learning will come from creativity and cooperative game play. Team work is required in games like D&D as no one will have the same advantages and disadvantages. Learning to plan out how the adventuring party will get over an alligator infested chasm will require verbal skills, game skills and the ability to compromise.
It may even allow the younger player to consider with retrospect how encounters worked or not, despite their protest at being democratically overruled by the party as a whole.
It’s good to learn to be a respected loser and a humble winner.
While we’re at it there’s also scope for more critical thinking – the game offers broader choices than you would find in digital role-play games on account of the limitless imaginations we all have. This brain stimulating critical thinking and imagination will increase a child’s capacity for reasoning and open mindedness which they will not get with other forms of games.
And finally; morality.
Every action has a consequence in just about any walk of life and RPGs. It may be cool to slay the evil orcs as they attack the human village… but what if the adventuring party then encounter the orphaned children of those orcs, starving and cold, searching for their parents?
In this day and age, morality and empathy are hard lessons to learn – best to start early.
A smidge of science: Adams (2013) studied the effects of role-playing games and identified several human needs which are sated during regular game play; the need to belong, the need for spontaneity and the need to be moral, all within the democratic participation of a well-balanced adventuring party. Why wouldn’t you want to fulfill those needs, and what better way to learn and cope with them?
And regarding those naysayers who say RPGs are bad for you? Check out this abstract from a scientific journal. Less than a quarter of psychiatrists questioned thought RPGs are bad for your mental health. The rest were likely players of Dungeons & Dragons or did their homework. The majority are clear; there are no links between playing table top RPGs and psychopathology. It’s good for you.
Want an easier version of an RPG to try? Check out this game, it’s made by Justin Halliday who has kids and likes role-playing with them (it all looks cute too!)
And for the grownups…
Well all of the above, with practice in improvisation, humility and creativity. Some say that RPGs bring people together, connecting people with fond memories in a world that has only ever existed in their minds, but are no less real to them than the air they breathe.
This author can confirm; friends since the age of 9 still get together weekly to combine might and kick evil in the ass.
“Full plate and packing steel!” as his teenage hero used to say.
Adams, Aubrie S. (2013) “Needs Met Through Role-Playing Games: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of Dungeons & Dragons,” Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research: Vol. 12, Article 6.
Edited 5/10/18 to help make opening sentence more inclusive.
So you’re going be the Dungeon Master (DM) for your first game of Dungeons & Dragons? You want to leave your players breathless, panting for more and unsure if they can take another mouthful of awesomeness?
I’ve seen it before; in your head there’s a legendary adventure waiting to vomit out from every orifice in your face and splurge itself onto the page.
You want to be the best goddamn master of the dungeon to ever grace the halls of adventuring. The dramatic music starts, your pencil plunges down toward the pristine sheet of paper.
You’ve got this. It’s happening. Like the impetus of the virgin lover, you stab down that pencil-lead and besmirch the paper.
Except that at the moment of climatic pencil to paper contact you have doubt. Your hand wavers, your fingers loosen and your pencil… it’s dropped to the desk, rolling slowly off the desk.
It happens to everyone.
You all want to play Dungeons & Dragons and it’s no easy feat to draw up a gaming session to please everyone. Either you drew the short straw and you have to write the game, working like a pack mule, or you chose the role of DM as a creative outlet because you’re pretty avant-garde.
I’m going to cover some simple basics; the role of the DM, knowing your players, what to prepare, an example of an adventure setup and finally some notes on starting your first session.
So here’s how it works; here is how you turn that dripping mucus of a brain into the well-toned 80’s sword and sorcery hero.
If you don’t have a copy or cant afford the ones you need, you could try these helpful PDFs provided by Wizards of the Coast.
Before we Begin…
Let’s get a few things clear about being the Dungeon Master / Games Master (DM / GM).
The DM acts as a type of story teller and referee rolled into one. You set the scene; you give cues and clues to the players, allowing each of them a chance to act with their character. You are not their adversary, despite being all the goodies and baddies in the story you’re trying to portray. And portray is the correct word.
You are showing them the story as they interact with it, you’re not telling them what to do, but guiding them on the journey of the story you have planned. Keep that in mind.
No one wins in D&D like in conventional games. The success of a game can be measured in the enjoyment of the players and the DM. If you enjoyed telling a story and making the players creep to the edge of their seat in anticipation, then it’s a good game. If no one has fun, it probably wasn’t worth it… but we all have to start somewhere, so as DM you must bear the burden of the players’ enjoyment, initially…
Trust me, it’s worth it.
So here are several important considerations to your first time DM session. Let’s rock this Kasbah with love and violence…
Know Thy Players…
Murder Hobos shouldn’t be the default setting for a brand new party, but be prepared!
Whether you’re delving at twelve, dirty at thirty or part time retired and kicking butt, knowing your players is the best advice you can get. I’ll tell you why with an example:
We can all watch the same film at the same time and enjoy completely different parts of it. We all went to see the film together, so we kind of enjoy the idea of the film, but some liked the love story, others enjoyed the high paced violent race and a few enjoyed the antagonistic interactions between two heroes. We like the film, but we love different bits of it.
Playing Dungeons and Dragons is exactly the same.
It helps if you know what your players like about a story. You’ll find some players are more into the story than pillaging troll caves and vice versa. This is fine, just identify who likes what. When you know this much you can add extra bits in for everyone to have a little more limelight – that extra tough monster for the barbarian to squish or the helpless stable boy trying to get the attention of the serving maid next door.
The little bits can add a lot to how the players perceive the game.
How do you know who likes what? Well, start by seeing what people want to play. A barbarian will enjoy fighting; the paladin will want a noble cause of their choosing to follow; a thief well… a thief will like collecting things; and the wizard? Well those creeps have all sorts of agendas.
Get your players to generate their characters before you plan the first game. Ask them to give their characters an agenda privately to you – you can use this later.
While you’re at it, ask them some questions about their characters and make some notes. Here’s an example:
Gwen wants to play a barbarian elf. Cool. She says her character is driven by revenge. Revenge for what? Well, Gwen explains that her barbarian lost her tribe in a cataclysmic earthquake, toppling their homes into a chasm. She thinks a powerful sorcerer may be responsible.
You don’t have to use this right away. Your first game is going to be about getting the players role-playing and enjoying their first game. But never forget those simple ideas.
Notes, Maps & Preparation Time
So this is where the planning starts.
You’ve already got an idea of what your players want to be, and you have their agenda or motivation for adventuring. These are invaluable. But now you want to create something for them to play in.
The limitless sandpit that is your mind is about to get as hot as all the fires in all of hell!
First off: Don’t try and write everything down.
You’ll get easily bored and frustrated and when you come to run the game, you’ll be flicking through notes and papers and no doubt getting lost. Even if it’s all typed up, you’ll be scrolling around and pausing and losing the attention of the players. A second to get your bearings is fine, but you want them to be savoring your every word.
Secondly: no plan survives contact with the players.
No matter how hard you plan it, the players will always approach things differently to how you planned it. Read that bit again, here I’ll help:
The players will always approach things differently to how you planned it.
It’s like they know exactly how you DIDN’T think the encounter could go.
For this reason alone, you should have your encounters and notes prepared in such a way that you can flip to any of them at a moment’s notice. If you force them to make decisions that you want, they will feel railroaded and not enjoy the experience.
Go with the flow, but nudge them in the right direction. Give them choices as the session progresses, but always loop them back to the encounter you hoped they would find. I’ll give you an example:
You wanted the party to talk to the shady character in the tavern but they decided to take a trip to the sewers to kill goblins instead. No sweat – all you need to do is give them a brief combat encounter in the sewers, suggest they go back to the tavern to clean up and heal… and have that shady character waiting for them. The tavern keeper can approach the party when they order a hot bath and let them know that the gentleman in the cloak was asking about them.
So how do you plan an adventure and keep track of things?
You’ll need an adventure idea. Here’s my personal check list:
Your Antagonist and their Motivation
You can literally watch any episode of Scoobydoo and get a load of examples of this. Why did Mr Parkinson terrorize the farmers market? Well he wanted to tear it down and use the land to build expensive flats… those pesky kids got in the way!
OK, so not a great adventure, but you get the idea. Think up your unsavory enemy and give it an agenda, motivation and a name. Keep it simple. Then work on its stats, but keep them basic for now – if it’s a monster from the Monster Manual, that saves time.
The Plot Hook
Or more correctly: how to draw the players into your story as if it’s their own choice. This is tricky but manageable. That agenda you asked them for? Well you’ll need to try and weave that in.
Gwen from the previous example might start the game hearing of a powerful sorcerer passing through the town you set the game in – a boastful man who claimed to have the power to move hills and mountains. She won’t encounter him this game, but she may if you play again. Make it seem like this was a month or so ago – you don’t want Gwen stomping off into the wilds to find him right that moment.
The Number of Encounters
An encounter is any time the party come across someone other than each other in a meaningful way. Buying food is essential to the characters but isn’t meaningful to the game. It’s not really an encounter… unless the food market is filled with rumors pertinent to the adventure idea in your mind. Bumping into bandits or falling into a hidden pit in the middle of the forest is an encounter.
How many encounters do you need? That’s up to you. I only plan the important ones – the introduction, the request for help or the motivation to get involved, some clues gathering by asking right questions, then some combat encounters as they sum up the clues and wander off to get into trouble. Finally, the end encounter – where facing the bad guys and trying to thwart their plan occurs.
These are the encounters I record. You’ll need an idea of where each one is (market place, creepy old church, grotto in the forest they learned about from someone in the creepy church). You’ll also need to record any monster stats or if you’re quick, their page numbers in the Monster Manual.
It’s worth noting that having some extra encounters both combative and non-combative is always wise in case the players skip a lot of role-play encounters and accidentally get close to the end encounter too soon in the session you’re running.
What about maps? Well, in honesty, if you keep your first game simple, you don’t need maps, but they can add to the element of belief if you have one.
It doesn’t need to be a work of art. You can find tonnes online for free, or if you’re pockets are lined with digital silver you can purchase whole packs of them. Check out Dyson, his maps are awesome!
Rewards (if any)
Ha. Hahaha *snort!* Hahahahahahaha… *snort*
Yeah so keep this simple too; try two hundred gold coins each with some (uncommon) magical items (which you can find in the Dungeon Masters guide). If you’re not sure, you can generate treasure using random generators based on their character levels, try DonJon it’s pretty descriptive and gives a nice gold value to each bit!
Wrapping up – An Example
So here’s an example of the above in brief.
The party meet on the road to Ostogar, where they travel briefly with some traders who say the town is pretty pent up at the moment on account of people missing (brief information encounter).
The party travel onward to the town and are told by the guards that they won’t tolerate bad behavior on account of the missing people. If they want info, got to the Black Boar Inn, it’s the only place open at night for strangers (brief info encounter).
The Black Boar Inn is a bustling multicultural place that serves traders, where the party learn of some of the missing people. Descriptions and emotive information about how much these people were loved, or how rich they were, are common) (in depth info encounter with role-play and room for high jinks).
They are directed to Sebby, an old clairvoyant who may be able to help them find the missing people. Sebby gives them cryptic clues as to the direction and the terrain they will have to pass to find the missing people (info and role-play puzzle as they decipher the crazy old ladies words).
They find a local ranger who can direct them to where she thinks they need to go, and off they set.
Two dangerous encounters (a wondering Ogre who wants all their stuff, and a pit trap set by the kidnapper to trap more victims).
They find a grotto or dungeon at the end of their trail and venture down into it. I call this a micro-dungeon, there are several traps, 3 combat encounters and brief puzzle about how to get past a locked door and…
The final encounter – a hag who has been torturing her victims by cutting bits off them.
Treasure! Yayy… oh wait there’s a twist! They find a clue… the hag is only one of three hags, so where are the other two? And there’s your link to the next gaming session.
Don’t try to go beyond what you have planned for each game. Once you run a game or two you’ll work out your pace just like you would learn to jog. Finish where your material ends, have a chat with your players and see if they can give you any feedback – accept good and bad feedback like a star player would, it’s a good mental place to be.
But don’t bend over backwards to cater for every gripe and niggle for each player. Chances are you are doing this as a favor and would love to play once in a while.
Learning to play D&D as a player is much easier than being the DM and your players should understand this.
Starting your First Game Session
Alright, so you’ve got your story notes, you have the books with scraps of paper to bookmark the important stuff. Your dice are warmed up. You have drinks and snacks on the table and everyone has sat down to start. But what is this? One of your players is sat watching the sport on his phone!
If the game is going to work and be enjoyable, you need everyone’s attention to give this amazing game its best shot. Give your players plenty of notice that they’ll need to ignore social media for an hour or two. Give them a social media break for a bit in a nice lull in the session.
So you sit down, open your note pad or laptop.
This is it. Your imagination is about to do battle with reality. You take a second to gather your thoughts. Everyone is looking at you…
Hit them with your first line like it means something. Start this bad boy up likes it’s a chromed Harley Davidson signed by Meatloaf, discovered by a post-apocalyptic tribe 200 years from now. Go full throttle on those natives and let them have it! But how do you do this?
I’ll tell you how!
Have your first line practiced. Get everyone settled in; all rules checked up with no more questions left to be asked. Absolutely don… Dave! Put your bloody phone away!
Depending on the type of story you’re showing the players will determine your first line, to a degree. For me, I sometimes start my party in peril.
But for your first adventure, you want to set the tone like any good author would. There are tonnes of this information on the net, but I’ll give you my opinion.
Which sounds better?
“OK, so you’re sat in a busy tavern when someone walks up to your table and says they need to talk to you in private…”
“It is night time in autumnal Ostogar, the town of bones. The Black Boar tavern is in full swing and the patrons, a colorful plethora of cultures and races sing and drink together, enjoying the sanctuary of warmth from the bitter cold outside. In the midst of the crowd, two cloaked figures catch your eye. They seem to be trying to get your attention without raising their voice over the merry din. What do you do?”
OK so maybe I’ve embellished a little bit here and there. But the idea is pretty obvious. Even if you don’t maintain this level of detail all the way through your game session, you still got everyone drawn in from the very start. The players will already be thinking along the same lines and wondering what is going to happen.
My example is pretty vanilla here, but that’s OK for an example. I’ll write a blog on great opening descriptions. another time.
So there you have them; things to consider when you’re about to become the DM. It can apply to any table top game where players’ role-play with you and each other.
Go forth and smack their pretty faces with a fist full of plot!
You can thank me in the comments… right?
In the next installment I will cover slightly more advanced topics:
Apparently, a god, responsible for most of my childhood dreams, nightmares and a huge inspiration to the gaming community on and off the digital board. Since 1989 Petersen is credited with nearly 20 digital games, 6 board games (including Cthulhu Wars, a 3500% over-pledge success on Kickstarter), executive producer of a single film and the legendary Call of Cthulhu RPG (1981).
And now the guy is combining some of my favourite things (which is yet to be identified as good or bad).
Want to play Call of Cthulhu but don’t want to deviate from the mainstream D&D engine?
Sure: it’s called Cthulhu Mythos and it’s set to be a grim and gritty lovechild of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition fantasy and Call of Cthulhu, a grand re-imagining of an older Pathfinder edition.
And it can be yours early if you’re willing to back the new Kickstarter project.
Boasting its funding goal in less than 30 minutes, it’s currently at £59K of its £7.5K target. And there’s still 19 days to go.
It’s a little pricier than some games, coming in at approximately £38 (not including the postage) but its default format is a swish-looking hardback book.
It is meant to be 400 pages of full colour horror, which is nice but it may take away some of that black and white charm you get with older editions of Call of Cthulhu by Chaosism.
But oh ye gods! Some of the new artwork is so finely detailed you can’t help but gawp in wonder!
But here’s some of the cooler bits:
There are rules (shall we say guidelines?) which allow you to play unusual races featured in the Cthulhu setting, rules for insanity and dreaming, which will hopefully blend much better than those found in the current Dungeon Masters Guide.
You can take a look at some of the content here in their free 25-page preview (it’s a lovely PDF format) with colour and stuff.
There’s even an option for miniatures if you’re the sort of gamer willing to pay for good models of stuff.
The Kickstarter is due to ship to backers in May / June time.
There is certainly an art to choosing the perfect game to introduce your friends to board gaming and many thousands of people all over the internet either insist that they know the best way to do this or cynically offer up the meagre fare of games like Forbidden island or Love letter.
This is fine, if you want to set the expectations of your friends as low as possible and forever have the context of their gaming experience defined by insipid blandness. You may feel as if they need to dip their toe in, like an ill person in a grainy Victorian drama who can only eat dry white toast. I say aim high with the people you care about; Do some research and find a game made from red meat that will truly capture you and your friends’ imaginations. You’ll see that instead of having them come round for a laugh or two at the weekend, you’ll receive a message from them the minute they get home demanding a rematch.
The following is a modest list of my recommendations that truly shows what board games are capable of and opens the doors for groups of any size to become enraptured with the endless possibilities that this hobby has to offer.
Star Realms places you in a hostile galaxy facing off against your friends in a celestial cold war that will soon turn hot. Use your ever growing deck of cards to exploit, plunder and fight your way to domination. You start with a bare-bones fleet and through subtle use of trade convoys, logistics and fighters, you build up until each player controls a teetering armada pointed square at the other.
The base game is very inexpensive, probably one of the most value-laden propositions open to beginners with small budgets. There’s plenty in the core box and many expansions to it that will add new mechanics and interesting play styles to keep anyone guessing.
Netrunner boasts one of the most consistently impressive reputations of the board/tabletop gaming scene. The asymmetrical style of play means that each player will have to think in different worlds while a corporation desperately tries to fend off a futuristic and well-equipped hacker hellbent on pulling the floor out from underneath.
The base game, while easily three times the cost of Star Realms, can be picked up cheaply if you shop around and comes jam-packed full of beautiful cards that allow you to build and revise several different decks of each side so each game can be fresh and challenging as you learn each factions’ strengths and weaknesses and scope out your friends’ strategies.
Blood rage is the last entry on my list and we’re ramping up the price point here. For the money, this is truly everything that you dream about when it comes to gaming. The box comes chock-full of exceptionally crafted miniatures to be placed on the expansive and busy board. The thick manual will guide you through the process of raising your Viking clan up to dominate the realm of the gods while utilising massive monsters and keen, often devious subjects and strategies that will see the claret flow and friendships strained.
Do you and your friends a favour by bringing them experiences that not only scratch the itch for shiny cardboard, but send them home unable to think of anything else but the bulging box you ceremoniously placed before their widening eyes.